My children are my identity.

There have been so many times in the last ten months that I have felt lost. I feel confused about who I am, who I will be, and how on earth I will ever be anything other than the person I have been since we lost Carter.

It's an interesting thing, to try and describe yourself. I can tell you very easily that I have brown hair and hazel eyes, that my nose is a little crooked, and that my skin is whiter than a ghost's. I love laughing, writing, eating, singing, watching movies, cats, ice cream, and hanging out with my husband. I can also tell you, with a little more difficulty, that I am kind, silly, deeper than I may seem, and that I care about others more than myself. I have a love/hate relationship with people in general, get bored way too easily, and that the only time I feel 100% confident in myself is when I'm dancing in a crowded room. There are surface level things that you probably know, then there are deeper things that you don't. There might be even things you know about me that I don't know about myself. But I have been so changed by the loss of our children that I don't really know anything anymore.

I don't really remember who I was before we lost Carter, and I don't know if it's because I am still the same as I was then, or if it's because I am completely different. Or maybe it's both. The things I would have told you about myself then are the same things I would tell you about myself now, but they feel different. It's almost as if, before, my traits simply laid on top of my skin, like they could slip off and be replaced at any moment. But now, they are etched deep into my bones. They are permanent, and would be very difficult to change. 

Or maybe everything feels different because there is sadness that lies behind it all.

It's almost as if, the day we lost Carter, I ran into a brick wall and everything fell apart. My composition stayed the same, but those traits were slammed into my bones and then I shattered. Now instead of being whole, I'm in little pieces. I still feel the same things, and I feel like I'm still the same person, but I'm having a hard time putting it all together. I don't know that I could really tell you anything about myself anymore. 

The only thing I can tell you for sure is that everything I do is done for our children. Every thought I have, every action I do, every word I say, they are all for our babies. I go to work to make money to save for the next baby. I stay home in bed because I'm too sad to get up. I speak kindly to people because I don't want to add to any hardship they are experiencing. I play with the cats because I can't play with my babies. I eat out because I'm too tired to make food. I spend money because my life feels empty and even though material things don't help, they feel good in the moment. I cherish my time at home with Brandon, because he and the babies are my world, and home with him is the safest place to be.

A lot of women talk about how they lost their identity once they had kids, and I can understand that. Going from lots of me-time to little or no me-time is a big adjustment, and I'm sure it's hard without that time to rest and recharge. It almost sounds silly to say this, but it's also really hard to recharge when you have too much time for yourself. I'm so sad and so lonely and so empty all the time, and it feels like the weight just gets heavier and heavier. 

I don't know who I am, and I don't know how to feel normal emotions anymore. I don't know how to maintain one stable mood for longer than thirty minutes at a time. I don't know how to be happy without being sad. But I do know that I am a mother to two perfect children, and wife to the best husband a girl could ask for. Even though I am a broken, our family is whole, and that is enough motivation for me to keep picking up pieces of myself, even if I drop a few along the way.

Missing the babies.

If I had a dollar for every time I've said that losing a baby is confusing, I would probably have enough money to adopt every child in the world. Confusing isn't the only word I would use to describe it (though it's one of the more appropriate ones), but besides being sad and angry, confusion is what I feel the most.

I started thinking about this on Monday. It was 11:04, and I got up to go to the bathroom at work. As soon as I walked in the door, I thought, seven days and ten minutes ago, I walked into the exact same stall and found that I was bleeding. Seven days and ten minutes ago, I was pregnant, and now I'm not. In my last letter to little bean, I wrote about how it was weird to not have any active participation in her delivery. With this miscarriage, I just stayed home. I was kind of an active participant, kind of not. Either way, one day the baby had a heartbeat, the next, it didn't. One day there was a baby in me, a few days later there wasn't. One week I got to stay home and mourn our loss and deal with the physical pain, the next I had to come back to work and pretend like everything was back to normal. Whatever that means anymore.

It has been nine and a half months since we lost Carter, and with each subsequent loss I find it harder and harder to understand our new normal. In the span of forty weeks, one normal woman's pregnancy, we have lost three babies. Three little angels that have somehow broken and completed us all at the same time.

There are so many things I've written separate posts about that I could continue to write about for years and years: sadness, anger, confusion, emptiness, fulfillment, joy, grief, fear, dread. The fact that our house is so empty. The idea that when I go out in public, no one would ever guess that I am a mother. How unfair it is that we are unable to bring a child home when there are parents locking their kids in cellars or the trunks of their cars. That I'm terrified people will forget Carter and little bean when there are so many other babies in the world. How crazy it is that time still passes, and that it seems to go so slowly, yet so fast. I think a lot about the day my counselor had me choose emotion cards out of a deck. I think I chose like fifteen different emotions. Maybe even twenty. That's a lot of emotions for someone to feel. And it would be one thing to feel each of them on different days, but I feel all of them simultaneously every single day.

How is it possible to feel so empty and full at the same time, all the time? To be so thankful for what I have, but so angry at what I don't?

When you lose someone you love, it's kind of like a giant boulder getting dropped into the middle of a small puddle. It crushes a lot of who you are, and the ripples aren't so much ripples as they are just chaos. Water spills outside the puddle, breaking the serenity and the wholeness of it all. The boulder is too heavy to lift all at once, so to get it out of the puddle, you have to slowly chip away at it, piece by piece, and it takes a long time. But even once every chunk of the boulder is removed from the puddle, there's still a dent where it fell, and that dent will never go away. There will always be tiny pieces of the boulder that are left behind.

Every single day I'm reminded of the chaos this boulder of child loss has caused in my life. Depression, anxiety, fear, guilt, loneliness, social anxiety...the list could go on and on. Losing Carter and little bean have hindered my ability to function like a normal human (or at least as normal as I was before, anyway). Brandon's work provided tickets to a baseball game last night, and I wanted to go, but we got about ten minutes away from home and I just couldn't do it. I couldn't handle people asking how I was doing, or giving me hugs, or telling me how tough I am. And on the flip side, I couldn't have handled everyone avoiding me or avoiding the subject of our losses. So instead we just went home and I was sad all night. It's not fair that we're changed in this way. Of course, I would rather be this person without my kids than never had them at all, but ideally, I'd like to still be normal and have them here with me.

It has been a pretty crappy week, in all honesty. I hate going to work not knowing when I'll get to be a stay-at-home mom. I hate staying home because it's too quiet. But I hate going out in public because, you know, people. Thank you to everyone who sends me notes and special things and remind me that our children are remembered. They always seem to come at the right time, and this week has been no different. And to all you loss parents, or anyone that is going through a hard time. just hold on. The ripples get smaller, and each day you wake up is another chip off the boulder. We can do this.

"You're so strong."

I read an article a while ago that sparked this post. I shared the article on Facebook, so some of you may have read it. In it, the mother writes "People comment on how “strong” my husband and I are. I don’t want to be strong, I want to be normal. There is nothing strong about living without your child. We don’t have any other choice but to go on without her; to go on living some semblance of a life while constantly missing her. There is no other option."

I've thought about this a lot since we lost Carter, and even more so since we lost our little girl, and now, after our miscarriage. People are always telling us how strong we are. We, like the mom that wrote the article, don't want to be strong. Trust me, I would love to have both my babies here and have people tell me I'm weak all day long. I would far take that over losing our babies and having to be strong. It takes so much work to be "strong." It is so hard to wake up every single day, get out of bed, eat, go to work, put a smile on my face, and help people with things when all I really want to do is scream and go home to sit in the empty nursery. At the end of the day, I barely have energy to sit on the couch with my eyes open. Some days I just want to drag myself outside, crawl into the backseat of my car and stay in the parking lot at work, because going home means I have to get up and do it all again the next day.

I don't want to be strong because I feel like the more I put on a show, the less people will remember our children and what we are going through. I don't want to be strong because I feel like the harder I try to be okay, the less I remember my own grief, and in turn, the less I remember our kids.

You think I'm strong because you don't see what happens when you aren't around. I put on a face for you because I don't want you to cry for me. I don't want to ruin your day the way all my days are ruined. I don't want you to feel even an ounce of the hurt I'm feeling, because no one deserves that. So you think I'm strong, because I'm spending my energy being strong for you.

But you don't see what happens when I'm by myself. When a song comes on the radio that reminds of Carter dancing in my belly. When I get home and can't make it up the steps because I'm physically tired from all the emotional pain. When I'm crying so hard that I can't breathe. When the skin around my mouth dries out because I drool a little when I cry. When anxiety sets in and I'm hovered over the toilet trying to simultaneously quell my crying and not throw up. When I get so angry that I throw the nearest non-breakable items until my arms are tired. When Brandon's shirt is soaked through with my tears. When we sit on the floor holding each other until the pain lessens. When every sentence about our children is a little stilted because we can't help but get choked up every time we talk about them. When we sit at the cemetery wondering how this is our life.

It's nice that people think we're doing well, and that we are being tough and putting on our game faces, but it's a lot of work. It's hard to not just call in to work every day. It's hard to not just lay my head down on my desk and will away the world. It's hard to come home to an empty house, or leave with an empty backseat. It's hard to live with an empty heart.

You can tell me I'm strong, but just know that you're lying. Maybe lying isn't the best word. Just know that you're wrong. I do things the way I do because I don't have a choice. Falling apart is not a choice because we have to keep going. Putting our lives on hold for grief is not a choice because time moves on and we have to learn to incorporate grief into our everyday routine. Giving up on myself is not a choice because at the very end of the day, I am all I have; I am the only one that controls my thoughts and emotions. Forgetting to live is not a choice, because my heart still beats for myself and our children, and there is so much potential for our little family. We have to live for that potential.

So you may think we're strong, but to us, breathing and living without our children is just a hard thing we have to do every day. It's routine but not, all at the same time. We're not just strong, we're loss parents, and this is our life.

Our five-day baby.

To fully tell this story, I need to back up a bit. Before we went to Disney World, I really thought I was pregnant. I was having some symptoms, and I just felt pregnant. But test after test confirmed that I wasn’t. I took one more test the day we got home, and again, negative. I was still confused as to why I was having symptoms, so I called my doctor and asked to get my blood drawn so we could make sure I was ectopically pregnant. I wasn’t, but I had started having some pain in my abdomen, so we made another appointment to go see him. He wondered if it was maybe appendicitis, so we did another blood draw to check my blood cell counts, and all were normal. Four days after that I was in a lot of pain, so I went in for an ultrasound and found out that I had an ovarian cyst. I wasn’t upset by this, because our bodies make cysts for a living, and one cyst isn’t anything out of control, plus if it is something that has happened before, it kind of explains why it took us a little bit to get pregnant with Carter, but that’s a story for another day.

My doctor was out of town when I found out about the cyst, and was gone for two weeks after, so I didn’t have a chance to talk to him about it before my follow up appointment. When we went back in (two weeks after finding out about the cyst), the ultrasound tech told me that the final ultrasound report said that my cyst had actually ruptured (which would explain why I was in so much pain the day I went in) and that we didn’t need to do a follow up ultrasound because the cyst was gone. For some reason, I felt like being naggy and kind of insisting that she do another ultrasound. She said she would just do a quick scan, and if she saw something, she would do a full exam. She looked at both ovaries, and they looked fine, then did a quick swipe over my uterus and said “I think there might be something there.” I said “like a baby?” and she said “I think so!”

We ended up doing a full exam, and found out that there was indeed a tiny baby with a little heartbeat! Brandon and I were so surprised. We just kept looking at each other and shaking our heads and laughing. We hadn’t anticipated being pregnant, but I was so glad I pushed for that ultrasound! It was just crazy that I stopped taking pregnancy tests when we got back from vacation, but that was when I should have started (tmi but oh well!). We went upstairs to meet with the doctor, and everyone was so excited for us. The first thing he did when he came in the room was give both of us a hug haha.

The appointment that day was exactly 39 weeks, almost down to the minute, from the day we found out we had lost Carter. That whole day had been kind of crappy, but finding out we were pregnant on such a hard day made it a little easier. I measured 5 weeks 6 days, and our tentative due date was set for March 22, which meant that with our early induction due to our losses, we would have a baby a day or two before my birthday.

That night after our appointment, we went directly to our neighbor friends (who are also loss parents) and shared the news. We went to a wedding the next day and had to keep the secret from Brandon’s family, and it was so tough! All weekend we were so excited. I kept wanting to call our parents and tell them, and it was so hard to be patient! We let ourselves get really excited, talking about bringing the baby home and all things baby. A friend, who didn’t know I was pregnant, sent me a rainbow blanket she had made me herself, and we got it the day after we found out we were pregnant. I thought it was a sign that this one would stick, and that we would get to bring it home. In retrospect, I should have known that getting too excited would jinx it.

Monday morning at work, I went to the bathroom and found that I was bleeding. I called Brandon as I was leaving work, and he met me at the doctor’s office. The doctor looked me over, said I wasn’t actively bleeding and that there were no signs that we were losing the baby. We even did an ultrasound, and the baby still had a very strong heartbeat. For the moment, we were safe. He sent us home with orders to rest and eat lots of ice cream. An hour and a half later, I bled more, and I knew it was over. I called my doctor the next morning to tell him I had been bleeding all night, and he said we were probably losing the baby. We went in for another ultrasound Wednesday afternoon, and even though the sac was still there, the baby was gone. We had lost another baby.

The rest of this last week has been spent recovering and dealing with the physical pain that accompanies a miscarriage. Our doctor said that ours was just a very typical miscarriage, and that unfortunately, they are very common. He said that it in no way relates to either of our other two losses, and was just another stroke of bad luck. He also said that this should not deter us from trying again. It was nothing we did, nothing my body did (and not caused by the cyst or my thyroid meds or anything), and that we should try not to be discouraged. Then he sent us home again with orders to eat ice cream, and to plan another trip instead of going to the gym. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times, but he really is the best.

We’re sad, obviously, but we have to keep moving forward. If someone wants to make me a giant banner that says that, keep moving forward, I’d love to hang it in my house somewhere. It has definitely been our motto for the past nine months.

Even though we’ve been dealing with another loss all week, my heart has felt so full. Brandon is the most incredible husband; I couldn’t have asked for someone better to go through all this with, and our babies are so lucky to have him as their dad. Together, we have two little angels, and another little baby that brought sunshine back into our lives for just a few days. Our house is so empty, but our family keeps growing. Even though our family is not the most traditional one, we are still parents, and our children are ours to love forever.

Another friend for Carter

This weekend was super nice, and very much needed after the busy month we've had so far. An hour after we got home from Boise last weekend, Brandon had to turn around and leave for Vegas for work. He got home Wednesday night and for the rest of the week/weekend we had really big plans to do absolutely nothing. Thursday afternoon we laid in bed and finished Big Little Lies (well, I finished it, Brandon napped). Friday was somehow relaxing and productive all at the same time. We got our Utah drivers licenses (which you're supposed to do before 60 days of living here but I feigned ignorance and held onto my Idaho license as long as I could!) and saw Spiderman that night. On the drive home from the movie, we saw a little rainbow in between the mountains on the east side of the valley. We ran home to grab our new camera, but by the time we got back outside, the rainbow had kind of started to spread and disappear, but we snapped a few pictures anyway. Then we drove back down the street to take some pictures of this lone sunflower on the side of the road. I know all this is kind of unnecessary to tell you, but having that time with Brandon to appreciate the little things made for a really nice evening!

It had been three weeks since the last time we were able to go see the babies, so we were pretty excited to get up to Logan on Saturday. We took them some Mickey-shaped crazy straws, a Disney keychain, and a little Hogwarts Express train. Brandon also bought them each a poker chip while he was in Vegas, so we left those too. When it comes to Disney, I almost feel like we spend more money on them than we would if they were there with us, and I love it. We bought them each a stuffed animal from Disney World too, but those are at home in the nursery. It was nice to spend some time at the cemetery, rearranging their toys, cleaning off the headstone, and giving them their new little trinkets. We took home the souvenirs from Amsterdam, and the Disney things will stay until our next trip (which, let's be honest, will probably be Disney again).

Brandon always makes an extra effort to pick up anything that has fallen over on any of the other headstones, and in doing so, we realized that there has been another little baby buried near Carter. When the first few babies after Carter was buried in front of him, we left each family a journal, and a note with our story and contact info on it. I leave the contact info, because I remember how alone we felt in the hospital, and I want to make sure these families have some sort of support, even if it's just a random stranger who knows some of what they are going through. There was one family I didn't leave a journal for, but we ended up meeting them at the cemetery on the day we spread Little Bean's ashes, and even though I am so grateful for the timing of it, have always felt bad that I didn't leave one for them. Brandon asked me on Saturday if I wanted to leave one for this new family, and at first I kind of declined. It had been a rough week, and I wasn't sure if I was up to writing our story down again, but in the end, I decided to do it, and am so glad I did.

The mom texted me last night, and my heart has been aching for her all day. Everyone's loss story is different, but it's hard not to feel at least some of what the parents are going through. I reach out to these women because I don't want them to think they are the only ones who have experienced a loss. I am so grateful to be in the company of strong parents that honor their children, and am so thankful for the support they have given Brandon and me, but most of the time I really wish we were the only ones. It breaks my heart to see and hear these other women suffering and feeling similar to how I felt. I know only a little of the pain, anger, and devastation they feel, and I wish I could take it from them. Losing a baby, especially so close to a due date, is not something I would wish on my very worst enemy. It is the only tremendous loss I know, but if losing Carter and now Little Bean could save everyone else from having to experience it, then I would gladly shoulder that burden.

It gives me a sense of peace to think about Carter and Little Bean, wherever they are, doing great things with other angel babies. I appreciate the parents who have unwillingly made this sacrifice since we lost Carter in October, but if the forces in the world care at all, I think Carter has enough friends for now.

I wrote a post a while back about how to help a grieving parent, and I would like to add to it here. If you know of someone who has experienced a loss, please let them know they aren't alone. I've had a few people tell me my blog has helped them, or that they planned to pass it along to someone they know. My blog is just one of so so many resources available to parents who have lost a child. There are blogs, support groups, counselors, websites, Facebook many resources for a part of life that we shouldn't be experiencing. Please pass them along.


Hi Little Bean: March 23, 2017

Today I would have been 18 weeks pregnant. Three more days and we would have been halfway through this pregnancy.

March 23, 2017

Hi baby bean! We got to see you again yesterday at our doctor’s appointment! They didn’t realize that we’d had an ultrasound last week, and they wanted to measure you. It was a super quick ultrasound, but you measured at six weeks again. I’m sure everything is fine, but I’m not going to lie to you, I’m nervous. I haven’t said anything to your dad, because the doctor said he would have measured you a little bigger than the tech did, but still. We’ll go back in for another ultrasound on Wednesday next week and make sure that you are still growing like you should be. And once we get that ultrasound done, I’m hoping maybe we can get another one when we go back for our next appointment. I just want to see you all the time and check your health! Plus, it makes my day just to see you.

There hasn’t been much going on around here. We told all your grandparents about you over the weekend. We told grandma and grandpa Robbins on Saturday when we were in Logan visiting your brother, and then we told grandma and grandpa Quast on Sunday. Dad and I are going to Idaho Falls this weekend to see grandma and grandpa Quast, but we aren’t going to share our news about you for another six weeks or so. We want to make sure you are safe! 

I’m telling my friends about you tonight, though, and I am so excited. I put one of your ultrasounds in a big box, and each friend gets to open a box. The boxes are clothes boxes, so they’ll be surprised when they open it and find just a little picture inside! I’m hoping at least one of them cries haha. We told Adrian about you on Tuesday when he and Tiffanie stopped to spend the night. He seemed pretty excited, but he didn’t cry like I was hoping he would. So hopefully my friends pull through for me haha.

Today has been a weird day, little bean. The doctor told us yesterday that we could be induced at 37 weeks, which is super great. That means you will be born 51 weeks after your brother. But I’m having a hard time figuring out how we’re going to celebrate him, but also keep you safe from flu season and germs and all the people. We could have a party at home, but then I feel like we need to go up and see him. But if we go up to see him, I feel like all these people will want to see you, and I want to make sure you don’t get sick. And to be honest, I don’t really know that I’m going to want to share you with people for a while. I want to be selfish and keep you at home with me and daddy for the whole six weeks he’ll have off. Six weeks though, isn’t that crazy awesome? We’re going to have so much fun, the three of us!

I sure love you. Stay safe and healthy in there. I can’t wait to see you on the ultrasound again next week!

 How far along? : Seven weeks, even though the ultrasound measured you at six again
Baby is the size of: a blueberry!
Total weight gain/loss: No idea.
Sleep: Still sleeping super well. I’m tired all the time, but I know I’m only going to get more tired as the weeks go on!
Best moment this week: Seeing you on the ultrasound again, and having the doctor confirm that we can deliver you early.
Movement: None
Symptoms: Less cramping this week, but still some. More nausea, but still haven’t puked, sore back (and other things), and so many hormones.
Food cravings: One night this week I wanted this pasta dish that Brandon’s mom made for us after we lost Carter. I don’t know why I wanted it so bad, but I had to have it! And Nutella, but that’s probably just because we had waffles the other day.
Food aversions: The break room down the hall has a coffee pot in it that is going all day. I have to stand in the hallway while my food heats up because the coffee smell is too much.
What I miss: Carter. I want to have both my babies at home.
What I am looking forward to: Another ultrasound next week, and getting out of the first trimester.